Whatever you call it, this is Quantic Dream's debut game, released long before creator David Cage's obsession with QTEs and PlayStation 3s. It apparently was originally intended to make an appearance on one or both of the earlier PlayStations, but in the end only the PC and Dreamcast were graced with its presence.
Like always my plan is to play it for an hour or two, or however long I need to get a good idea of what kind of game it is, and show a whole lot of screenshots along the way.
This has absolutely nothing to do with Nomad Soul, but I can forgive you for getting the two games mixed up.
Saints Row: The Third), but I'm sure this must have been a cliché even at the time.
Sorry, I'm being overly snarky again aren't I? I'm just annoyed that they covered this video in flickery lines so I can't make an animated gif out of it without the file size being ridiculous.
Our hero runs down an alleyway, he shoots a robot, he rides away on a bike, he beats someone up somewhere else entirely...
Nope, he's not even in the room for this bit. This is just one of those pole dancing interludes I guess.
So okay Kay'l wants me to press the 'any' key to possess his body and enter his world, because I'm the only one who can save it... and that's all the information he's going to give me?
Dude, Kay'l, I've read Nigerian scam emails more persuasive than your pitch. You seemed like a pretty badass hero in the intro video, why not try saving the world yourself? I mean either way it's going to be your body doing it, so it might as well be you driving! You may be in a rush but me, I can leave this screen on for hours, so you might as well tell me what's going on.
It'd be even worse if I was playing the Dreamcast version, as I'd have to explain to him that I'm not using a computer and that my controller doesn't come with an 'any' key. Well, unless I got the Dreamcast keyboard out I suppose...
Soul Reaver I was playing as the poor sucker who was doing the sucking.
Shame I've no idea what half of this means. Apparently energy is different to mana, speed is unrelated to dodge, and my fighting experience is so low it can't even be measured in numbers.
The theme tune on the other hand is bit more interesting. It's a track called New Angels of Promise created by David Bowie for the game (youtube link for you there). He provided a few songs for the soundtrack, appears in game as two different characters, and his creepy blue face is on the US cover of the Dreamcast port. Not that David Bowie himself is blue; I mean his likeness was used for a creepy blue guy who presumably appears later in the game.
Anyway my inner monologue seems to think that Kay'l wants me to go to his apartment, even though he never told me where it is, and it's also showing a suspicious amount of knowledge of local terms like 'Sneak' and 'slider'. By the way it turns out that Sneak refers to that arm-mounted computer I brought up earlier to check his stats, and not the act of moving stealthily (gotta make a quick trip to the options screen to redefine some keys now).
My inner monologue figured out the 'slider' is their word for 'taxi' and then intuited how to call one over with my computer. Then I took over, failed to find the door to get in, and then managed to get run over by the thing. At least it doesn't seem like it's possible for me to lose all my life like this, just most of it.
It's these bloody controls, that's what it is. The game has Resident Evil style movement with no separate camera stick, and I'm stuck using the keyboard because it hates my Xbox 360 pad. I had to unplug the thing to stop him walking backwards and if there's one thing I despise it's a game that makes me reach around the back of my PC and unplug my pad.
Now that I'm indoors the camera has gone a bit on the Resident Evil side as well, switching between angles as I walk around, and I can't say it's making it any easier to figure out the floor plan. There are at least two doors leading out from here though I'm sure of it.
Combat is set up a lot like the 3D fighting games of the time, with its own set of controls. I've got two kicks, two punches, I can jump, duck, walk in two dimensions, and step in and out of the third. Presumably there's a way to block as well but I can't figure it out. I'm the last person who should be passing judgement on fighting games, but my instincts say... this is kind of crap.
My inner voice reveals that I get the impression that I'm the only one who can see them, which is probably because THERE IS NO ONE ELSE HERE. Dumbass.
The mysterious intruder gets a good look at Kay'l's face, then immediately throws her gun aside and runs up to hug him. Then she asks him where he's been and why he hasn't been in touch. Apparently the guy's been missing for a while.
Obviously 'you wouldn't believe me' is right off the table, so I can either claim not to remember where Kay'l's been hiding over the last few days (which isn't technically a lie), or just come out with the truth.
I figure that I might as well tell her what actually happened, seeing as I could use an ally who's on the same page as me. Plus if Kay'l knows about soul jumping and dimensional portals she might know something about them too, right?
So much for choice then, as Kay'l automatically picks option #1 second time around. Though she believes the amnesia story instantly and suggests that I should go check out my office at Security Headquarters. First though I'm going to finish opening cupboards and pocketing everything I find. I'll have that gun off the floor as well.MYSTERIOUS WOMANKay'l? Are you sure you feel alright? Do you want me to call a Meditech?
KAY'LNo, I'm OK. I... I think I've lost my memory.
Man I can't just keep calling her that. Hang on; I'm going to look this up.
Right, the internet assures me that she's called Telis. Plus apparently neither she nor Kay'l are emotionless robots, so I have no idea why that conversation was filled with lines like "tell me about the circumstances surrounding my disappearance."
Anyway, I've got myself a mysterious lizard key and a place to be, so I can leave the apartment now and head out into the city.
You know what would've been cool though? Item descriptions. Some games love to add character to their world with long-winded descriptions of the objects within it, but this is like 'meh, it's a gun, whatever.' Our hero has next to no opinions about anything.
Am I the only one getting a bit of a 'Judge Dredd' vibe from this Security HQ? It's more like a bunker than a police precinct, with one giant metal door the only way to get inside.
Or Demolition Man actually! This is like the evil version of Demolition Man's future utopia... which I suppose is just Judge Dredd again.
Okay the building has seven floors it seems, but none of the doors in here are labelled so I guess I have to try them all in turn until I find Kay'l's office.
Oh, plus I'm deducting 10 points because the game doesn't let me enter numbers on keypads directly with my keyboard's numerical keypad. The game was developed for PCs first, they've got no excuse!
Turns out that Kay'l and his partner Den were both investigating a series of murders. Each time the bodies were horribly mutilated and the victims had been missing for four days before their bodies were found. Hey, Kay'l was missing for four days too!
Oh hang on a second, I'm getting a call.
SOON, AT THE RESTAURANT.
Poor possessed Kay'l makes another half-hearted attempted to explain that he's a video game player from another dimension, but he's interrupted with a call from the cops, instructing him to go deal with a hold-up at a supermarket. So I guess I'm doing that then.
Right, I'll save at the restaurant just to make sure, then get a slider to the supermarket.
It's a shame that this level is so short, because I feel like I need more time to work out what's making this combat as bad as it is. I've played GBA games with more satisfying gunplay than this.
Okay first up the feel is all wrong. Kay'l slides around the level like a hover tank, and once he's up to speed it's an effort to pull him back in the opposite direction. The gun hasn't the slightest recoil animation when it fires and the sound effects are puny. Plus I looked down and his feet are missing!
Second, it's no fun at all to engage these enemies. They seem to spawn into the level as I'm walking around; they either roll out from behind something, spring out from between boxes, or shoot me from behind. I thought they were being clever and moving to flank me at first, but nope it seems that they really do just appear behind me.
Seems to me that here's no ducking behind cover, there's no dodging bullets, there's no strategy, it's just about reactions. Bloke appears, move crosshairs over bloke's head.
Kay'l's body seems to react to my inputs as if they're suggestions, and I'm still struggling to make a link between what I'm pressing and what's actually happening. I've managed to get him to do a three kick combo a few times, but it's hard to feel satisfied when the enemy just blocks it and then kicks me across the room. Basically, I'm entirely fucked here.
Do I manage to claw back victory from almost certain defeat? Find out in part two!